Listen to Your Kids – Do You Hear What They’re Saying?
A child seldom needs a good talking to as much as a good listening to” – Robert Brault
In all the years I provided training for families, I would often ask kids, “If you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about your parents, what would it be?” or ” If you had a magic wand and could make your parents do whatever you wanted, what would it be?” Almost consistently, they have told me they would make their parents listen to them and hear them better.
In this series of articles I offer some practical parenting solutions. If you use these solutions effectively, you will create an environment where your children will feel heard.
The majority of families I’ve worked with reported the same common problems: “The kids just don’t listen!” And the kids say, “My parents don’t understand me!” You may relate to this experience.
The problems that lead to parents and kids not feeling heard are multifold. In this series of articles we’re going to focus on the kids.
Kids need to be heard.
Just like their parents, they need to feel that their perspectives are important; and they need to be validated. Validating and hearing your children are NOT the same as agreeing with them.
Think how you feel when you want to talk to a friend about something important, but you sense that your friend is doing something else. Then he says, “Oh, go on. I’m listening to you; just got to check these emails real quick. Now, what were you saying?” Do you really want to continue that conversation? If you do go ahead and share what’s on your mind, do you feel heard and respected as much as you would if your friend respected you enough to put those other tasks on hold for a minute?
Often your kid wants to talk to you, but you can’t stop whatever you’re doing. You want to pay attention, make eye contact, but it may not be possible at the time. It’s important, especially with your younger kids, to get down to their level (squat or kneel down) to show they have your attention. If you’re in the middle of a conversation, or driving, or doing something else that you can’t stop, then when what your child wants to say can wait, try saying, “I want to hear what you have to say, but I need to (drive, finish this call, etc.) right now. So first let me finish this, please; then I promise I’ll listen to you.” Be clear, concise, and kind. Follow through with your promise because when you do, you earn your child’s trust.
When you listen to your kids…
When you’re listening to your children, remain quiet and listen! Let them finish their thoughts. Children don’t communicate in a linear, logical, and easy to follow manner. Give them time. Let them share, not just “report”. This is a very important process, whether they are three or thirteen years old. One of the most common things parents do is feel that they already know what their kids are going to say; so they try quickly to finish their kids’ thoughts for them. Too much knowledge can be a curse. Parents who know too much, are ready to take over the conversation with their children, and that’s when their children usually get very frustrated and don’t feel heard.
How you respond to your kids lets them know if you’re listening and if they’re being heard.
In our next article I will give you ideas on responding to show your young kid that they are important and you care and you’re listening.
This is an excerpt from my book: “Create Happy Kids”
Dr. Sherkat is a parent strategist who is available to do Parent Education Workshops, either Private or PTA Sponsored Classes.
Contact her at 425-772-6698.